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Protecting construction workers and managing asbestos for a city centre cathedral

In one of our notable recent projects we were responsible for a number of works on a cathedral in a busy UK city centre.

Having been asked by the architect to conduct an asbestos survey on a small part of the property in advance of refurbishment work, Environmental Inspection was able to quickly identify and resolve wider risks.

Through care, attention, and a thorough approach, we were able to help the client to improve its overall approach to asbestos management. This has significantly reduced the work that will be required in future, and strengthened the organisation’s compliance evidence.

Purpose

Ensure safety of contractors in planning and delivering significant works.

Related to this, and upon our findings and those of an independent UKAS accredited laboratory, we were also tasked with managing an asbestos removal project, and appointing a contractor for other works. Additionally, developing the means of managing and reporting asbestos, to comply with all legal responsibilities.

How we managed the project

Not long after beginning our work, we came across a section of material near to the site of what we knew to be a previous asbestos removal job. Taking our usual care to observe the area, we identified asbestos debris, which had been left in-situ. It was part of some thermal insulation, made from a known Asbestos Containing Material (ACM).

Further debris was found at the site of an incomplete containment of asbestos. It was clear to us that the contractors had removed and contained the most obvious material, but left ACM around the site of removed pipework. Walls were contaminated and not sealed. Despite all of this, the previous work had been passed by an analyst.

So, a wider survey (an Asbestos Management Survey), was required, followed by thorough removal and clearing of the affected parts of the building.

As is often the case with asbestos removal, there was more than one possible way to proceed. So, we weighed up the various options. One option (quill blasting) was preferred by several contractors, but we deemed this unsuitable, due to the building still being operational. Also, it would have affected not only the cathedral, but the nearby offices. Six weeks of full time work, with the level of noise involved is to be avoided, unless it is the only way.

We came up with an alternative, and one befitting a building of this nature:  The old-fashioned, manual method, using hand tools. We were able to plan it for the same 6-week time period, and obtained quotes from qualified asbestos removal professionals on a like-for-like basis. This always gives the client the best chance of receiving value for money.

We project managed a phased remediation of the asbestos that we found. We fully project managed some of the removal, and appointed contractors to manage other aspects. Environmental Inspection produced all of the detailed tender documents.

All of this was done with minimal disruption – so much so that part of the cathedral remained in use the whole time. Choir practice went on as usual, because we segregated the area. And the workers carried out the renovation in complete safety.

Our thorough and careful work involved working alongside an archaeologist to lift flooring and remediate pipework underneath; avoiding the need to change any fixtures.

We carefully scheduled our 4 day removal project to run in stages, so as to keep the project time down. It was done in ‘full conditions’ – safeguarding passers-by and cathedral users. By having responsibility for the removal contractor, and analyst, we were able to take the significant responsibility away from the client.

We further supported the client with their ongoing asbestos management by providing a full Asbestos Management Plan. This sets them on course for full management of their responsibilities, with simple re-inspections all that is required from here onwards.

Results

Both the asbestos removal and the planned refurbishment were completed in the planned timescale.

Now the cathedral management, and asbestos Duty Holder have all of their asbestos management information complete, and in one place (the Asbestos Management Plan); including a priority risk assessment. The required re-inspections in future will be simpler, and more cost-effective.

There is a lasting health and safety benefit, as asbestos that was unknown at time of requesting the survey is now removed – as well as that which was supposed to have been removed already. They’ll never have to go through this again.

(Having recently completed a legionella risk assessment for the cathedral, we are now confident that it is completely compliant in both of these two areas).

 

 

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